By Olympia BDS
Olympia, WA. A lawsuit, filed Friday in Thurston County Superior Court, aims to punish the Olympia Food Co-op for enacting a boycott of Israeli Goods. Plaintiffs, including several candidates whose recent Co-op Board of Directors campaigns failed by large margins, threaten financial harm unless the local food cooperative rescinds its boycott.
An ultimatum from the plaintiffs sent to the Co-op before the lawsuit was filed reads: “If you do what we demand, this situation may be resolved amicably. If not this process will become considerably more complicated, burdensome, and expensive than it has been already.”
Groups opposed to the boycott of Israeli goods have repeatedly refused to bring the issue to a vote of the Co-op membership – a democratic option available to any Co-op member – and have instead turned to the court system, prompting some to question the legality of bringing suit at all.
Laws prohibiting “strategic lawsuits against public participation” or SLAPP suits, aim to protect individuals and organizations that participate in protected speech. SLAPP suits have frequently been used as means of repressing public participation by way of legal and financial intimidation.
According to leaked documents (http://bit.ly/nUKc0G), the Northwest chapter of the international pro-Israel and anti-boycott lobby group StandWithUs and Akiva Tor, the Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest, have been working closely with the plaintiffs to bring the lawsuit forward.
In an interview with the online news publication The Electronic Intifada, director of StandWithUs Northwest Robert S. Jacobs acknowledged advising the plaintiffs to focus on procedure rather than substance, noting that trying to persuade the Co-op Board to reverse their decision on the basis of political and moral arguments would “probably not very successful.”
StandWithUs Northwest is also actively combating community boycott initiatives at several other food cooperatives, including a local initiative in Port Townsend, where StandWithUs recently brought Israeli Deputy Consul General Gideon Lustig to speak against the proposed boycott.
When asked about the lawsuit, Olympia Food Co-op Staff Representative Jayne Kaszynski remained focused on the Co-op’s commitment to social justice: “We can assure you that this lawsuit will not diminish our commitment to the rule of law and universal human rights for all people.”
Read more at Olympia BDS
Ed. Note: Also see the film short, My Fellow American, which was created to combat anti-Muslim sentiment: